Zin-A-Palooza! Wine Tasting Club Blind Tastes Ten Zinfandels

The most recent gathering of the Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) featured a Zin-A-Palooza!

The PPWTC started in 2010.  Initially, we met every couple of months, but by popular demand we meet every six weeks or so these days.  We typically have a non-scoring event or two each year (the most recent was a record party).

As with most groups, our wine tasting club consists of a “core” group of 10-12 wine lovers that is augmented by another 10-15 individuals depending on the theme.  The Zin-A-Palooza theme was complemented by an end of summer barbecue!

In addition to bringing a wine, each individual/couple is asked to bring an appetizer that will pair with the wines being tasted.  We begin each tasting with an hour or so of fellowship, eating, and wetting of our whistles.

150911_Zin Night

From time to time folks have been known to bring a special treat….

150911_98 David Cafaro Zin
It’s not everyday you get to drink a 17 year old Zinfandel. This one from Dry Creek Valley producer David Coffaro was a treat and held up quite well!

We typically taste no more than 10 bottles (though occasionally we’ve tasted more – I don’t recommend it.  I think 8 is a good number of bottles) Bottles chosen for tasting, as well as the tasting order are usually decided on a first come, first served basis.  Any late bottles are consumed either during “Happy Hour” or after the main tasting.

Here’s how our tasting went down:

  • Club members asked to bring a wine of their choice. There was no pre-set price limit or minimum for this tasting.  While I didn’t get prices for all the wines, I believe the wines ranged in price between $13 and about $45.
  • All wines are tasted blind
  • Tasters are required to score all wines
  • The wines are scored based on 4 criteria (aromabody, taste, and finish) – each on a scale of 1-5 (1-low; 5-high). Therefore minimum score = 4 points and maximum = 20 points
  • Both average and median scores are calculated.  The winner determined by highest average score.  The median score used as tie breaker, if necessary.
The Zin-A-Palooza Line Up – 10 Zins; One Winner!

We tasted 10 Zinfandels.  Lodi dominated the field with half  of the wines.  There were three from Sonoma, and two from Paso Robles. 

The wines were tasted in the following order:

  1. 2012 Kirkland Signature Zinfandel Old Vine – Sonoma County
  2. 2012 Michael-David Vineyards Zinfandel 7 Deadly Zins – Lodi
  3. 2013 Ridge Zinfandel Benito Dusi Ranch – Paso Robles
  4. 2012 Tobin James Zinfandel James Gang Reserve – Paso Robles
  5. 2011 JC Cellars Zinfandel Cassata – Sonoma County
  6. 2012 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Marisa Vineyard – Lodi
  7. 2009 Mantra Zinfandel – Sonoma County
  8. 2012 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Old Ghost – Lodi
  9. 2013 Cline Cellars ZinfandelCalifornia
  10. 2013 Criss Cross Wines Zinfandel Old VineLodi

We had 22 tasters that included a diverse range of experience with wine from newbies to wine-loving enthusiasts.  I think there were a few more wine-loving enthusiasts on this night.

The PPWTC Score Sheet

Individuals are asked to tally their scores and provide me with their totals for each wine. Half-points are allowed. I input the scores into an Excel spreadsheet I created.

150911_Tabulation of Scores
Yours truly, along with my assistant Joy Lin, furiously tabulating the scores before the natives got restless…

And the winner, with an average score of 13.6 was the: 

2012 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Marisa Vineyard!

IMG_3613 (1)

The runners-up in the order of finish (including average score) were: 

  • 2012 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Marisa Vineyard (13.4)/ Median score =14
  • 2013 Ridge Zinfandel Benito Dusi Ranch (13.4)/Median score = 13
  • 2012 Tobin James Zinfandel James Gang Reserve(12.9)
  • 2013 Cline Cellars Zinfandel (12.7)
  • 2011 JC Cellars Zinfandel Cassata (12.4)
  • 2012 Kirkland Signature Zinfandel Old Vine (12.2)
  • 2013 Criss Cross Wines Zinfandel Old Vine (12.1)
  • 2012 Michael-David Vineyards Zinfandel 7 Deadly Zins (11.4)
  • 2009 Mantra Zinfandel(10.4)

My top three wines were the Ridge Zinfandel Benito Dusi Ranch, JC Cellars Cassata and Klinker Brick  Old Vine Marisa Vineyard.

I very much enjoy blind tastings in the wine tasting club setting.  It can remove preconceptions about  wines while presenting the opportunity to rate wines in a peer group setting.

Ah, but where there is a blind tasting, there is virtually always a surprise. That is the nature of blind tasting; as capricious an endeavor if there ever was one.

The surprise for me this time is that there was no real surprise!  The top 3 wines (Klinker Brick and Ridge Vineyards) are perennial favorites among Zinfandel lovers.

I wasn’t surprised to see a Lodi Zin on the winner stand.  Lodi is a region on the rise. I’m excited about the wines coming out of the region.  And fruit from the Benito Dusi Ranch in Paso Robles, in the capable hands of Ridge is bound to be a favorite among Zinfandel lovers (the 2013 Ridge Benito Dusi Ranch is sold out).

The top three wines are all in the $30-40 range, so I’m always a little surprised when a $15 bottle of wine doesn’t topple a more expensive bottle.   But this time the lower priced bottles were in the middle of the pack.

I must say, I’m starting to notice a bit of a trend within our wine-tasting club.  When the club started 5 years ago, it was pretty common for the least expensive, most fruit-driven wines to emerge victorious in these blind tastings.  But as the members of our wine-tasting club palates evolve,  it seems more and more, that more moderately priced, well-crafted wines are emerging as winners in our blind tastings.


Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

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